Stony Brook Assessment Symposium

Today I attended the Stony Brook Assessment Symposium sponsored by the Stony Brook Faculty Center.

Chuck Taber, Dean of the Graduate School and Vice Provost for Graduate Education, talked first about how Stony Brook came to create its task force for academic assessment. He made some great points about how assessment can sometimes be a scary word for instructional faculty, but moving towards a reflective and data-driven approach to assessment is a great thing for the University.

The keynote speaker was Dr. Stephanie Evergreen who spoke about visualizing data. The key to this is packaging the information into understandable chunks so viewers can use their working memory to think more deeply about the represented information, not figuring out the chart. Good visualization is about clearing away the clutter and exposing the information for use. She has a four-step process for creating data visualizations:

  1. What’s the point?
  2. Who is the audience?
  3. What’s the best chart type?
  4. How can you sharpen the point?

Dr. Evergreen also talked in depth about creating charts that humans can understand and the importance of communicating points clearly…even in academia where it’s sometimes more acceptable to present things objectively and let readers work to draw (hopefully) the same conclusion from the data. She also gave out particularly nice and helpful handouts. I hate paper, but I’m keeping these!

My first breakout session was Qualtrics: A Beautiful Multi-tool of Online Survey Research presented by Ahmed Belazi, Director of Planning & Staff Development at Stony Brook. This was a good foundational explanation of an absolutely enormous topic. I wish this presentation had been longer, but even in an hour we covered a lot of ground.

Then I attended Low Hanging Fruit: Using Course Evaluation Data to Improve the Student Experience presented by Patricia Aceves, Director of Stony Brook’s Faculty Center. I’ve been thinking a lot about how we can better evaluate our one-shot instructional sessions without over burdening students, so this was a very valuable session. We don’t have a formalized assessment strategy in place now, but this session made a good case for developing and using one.


My last breakout session was Formative Assessment with Clickers: More Than Just Taking Attendance with Sarah Malmquist, Professor in Neurobiology at Stony Brook. Sarah teaches HUGE classes and uses clickers, not only to take attendance, but to increase engagement and help foster participation among all students, even those who don’t feel as comfortable speaking in class.